From 1 January 2023, sailors will no longer be able to use the Maritime and Coastguard Agency's flare disposal service


From 2023, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) will no longer offer a flare disposal service for boat owners.

Instead, those with flares which are damaged or at the end of their life will need to use a registered disposal service provider.

The RYA and British Marine’s joint environmental programme, The Green Blue, lists contact details of registered disposal service providers.

So far, 21 are listed for the UK. There are none listed for Northern Ireland or the North East of England.

At these facilities the typical disposal fee will be £2-3 per flare.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency says flares in your possession that have time-expired or are damaged should not be used and they must be disposed of safely as soon as possible

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency says flares in your possession that have time-expired or are damaged should not be used and they must be disposed of safely as soon as possible

The MCA said if there are no providers close by, then flares may be disposed of at the place they were bought, at local marinas, through local authorities or other waste disposal businesses.

Some marine business run disposal events across the country, usually at marinas and harbours. Premier Marinas regularly holds flare disposal days.

Small quantities of flares, between 6-12, can be transported in your own vehicle to a third-party disposal service provider for destruction.

‘This is provided that you’ve made all reasonable efforts to pack and secure such devices to reduce any health or safety risks to you or anyone else,’ said the MCA.

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In the UK, only coded boats and vessels over 45ft are required to carry flares, although many cruising sailors also carry them.

The MCA has updated its Marine Information Notice (MIN) 687, and is reminding sailors that they are legally responsible for the maintenance, safe storage, transportation, handling and disposal of flares in their possession. It will still dispose of illegally dumped flares.

The MCA states that flares should not be disposed of in household, garden waste or recycling centres and should not be dumped.

It is also highlighting that flares should not be accepted by yacht or boat clubs, unless it has appropriate storage facilities and correct transportation arrangements in place.

The scrapping of the free disposal service, which the MCA ran from 18 designated sites around the country at a cost of £250,000 a year, follows a public consultation in 2021.

When the service was first launched, the MCA received around 60,000 flares per year; in 2018, they received only 12,000.

The Cruising Association (CA) said the MCA ‘is relying on the private sector to ensure safe disposal of flares.;

A member of the CA’s Regulations and Technical Services group (RATS), Robert Sansom said until the end of 2022, CA members may be able to dispose of their expired flares at Coastguard stations but they should check with your local coastguard station first. After this they will need to use a commercial disposal service.

‘Currently, there are a limited number of businesses offering disposal but British Marine expect this to increase over time. There is a marked lack of facilities on the East coast between Lowestoft and Fraserburgh and none in Northern Island. And, if you live on an island, don’t forget that you often can’t transport flares on commercial ferries so you will need to transport your flares to the mainland in a private boat,’ said Sansom.

‘Of course, if your pleasure vessel is no more than 13.7m in length, you can avoid any difficulties in disposing of flares by not carrying them in the first place and relying on other alerting mechanisms, including VHF radio, EPIRBs or PLBs, and EVDS devices (electronic flares) instead,’ he added.

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